Review / ‘Ferdinand’ (G) ***

IN 1935, American children’s author Munro Leaf took less than an hour to write the 790-word story of Ferdinand, “the bull with the delicate ego” to quote Larry Morey’s lyric for a song first heard on the soundtrack of an Academy-Award-winning eight-minute Disney animation in 1938. 

The notion of a bull who would rather sit in the shade of his favourite cork tree smelling the flowers has become part of modern culture. Ferdinand annoyed Franco and his fascistas who perceived a dangerous pacifist sentiment. Hitler didn’t much like him either, for the same reason and burned the book!

For this 2017 feature-length animation, Brazil-born director Carlos Saldanha and a sextet of writers, led by Ron Burch, have updated the iconography and situations of Leaf’s story into 21st century values. I watched it in the company of a mother and two daughters in an otherwise empty cinema. We agreed that we had enjoyed it.

The bulls have been drawn without the anatomical feature that so unmistakably characterises them. Presumably, parents accompanying their children will get used to that. But will need to have an answer ready if the kids ask why it’s not there!

Youngsters will have little or no difficulty working out what’s happening right up to the time when Ferdinand enters the ring to face the picadors and banderillos who in real situations annoy the bull in preparation for the matador whose job is to kill the bull before the bull kills him. 

Not surprisingly, the film fudges that passage. There is no bloodshed. As the song goes: “When the picador missed him, why, Ferdinand kissed him, for he never learned to fight”.  Ferdinand and his companions return to the farm where, we must presume, he lived happily ever after.

At all cinemas

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